Tag Archives: task management

Telecommuting: Keeping Your Offsite Employees on Task

Telecommuting: Keeping those offsite on target.

telecommutingWith the economy in the state is in today, telecommuting is fast becoming a popular alternative for employees. The question is how to keep these employees on task so that productivity is still achieved at a maximum level. Telecommuting offers flexibility which is highly desired by many employees; however, companies are sometimes hesitant to offer this opportunity due to bad experiences in the past with employees who did not pull their weight and were a drain on the company. Most remote workers understand the need to work harder than their counterparts on site and strive to make it happen.

Although there are many advantages in being an offsite employee, there are disadvantages too. Telecommuting employees are not able to participate in the water cooler conversations that happen on site. They do not get to develop strong personal relationships with their cubicle neighbors. They also tend to bear the brunt of blame when things go wrong. Looking deeper at these disadvantages; however, reveals that they might not be as negative as they seem. Water cooler is often centered on gossip, employees can still get to know their team without being in a cubicle next to them and people often try to find scapegoats wherever they can, regardless of where they are located.

Remote employees need to recognize that although a flexible schedule contributes to a better work and life balance, they need to be accountable, stay connected and communicate in ways that lets the office know what they are working on as well as establishing relationships with the teammates back at the office. Do not give off the appearance of a robot that sends emails and has an electronic voice. If you take the time to get to know the onsite employees at your company, you will be appreciated and accepted by them even if you are not physically with them all the time.

Consider these five tricks and tips to help you maintain those relationships and stay productive:

1. Track your work output – Let your manager or supervisor know what you work on every day. If it makes sense, keep your teammates up to date too. There are lots of resources on the Internet, including free online tools to keep track of work output.

2. Use Instant Messenger like it is your best friend – Most likely you are working near a computer with Internet accessibility. Utilize an IM program that allows you to send links, information or questions whenever you think of them. This makes you feel connected to those at the office and lets them know that you are actually working. The conversation that you have with IM is more fluid than simple emails.

3. Stick to a schedule – Although a flexible schedule is one of the desired outcomes for an offsite employee, having clear work hours is still a necessity. This makes you accessible to your teammates at the office so they know when to get a hold of you.

4. Set up weekly communications – If you are unable to make it to the office once a week due to distance, set up a weekly communication with key members of your team. Video chats or conference calls are important whether you perceive a need or not, so you can show off your personality and talk shop. You will find that there is always something to talk about even if you did not have a list of topics ready beforehand.

5. Make your voice heard – Just because you are not physically at the office does not mean you are not a vital part of the team. Make your voice a part of the conversation when emails are sent or during conference calls. This is an excellent way to digitally brainstorm with your fellow teammates and clarify what happens at the office when you are not there.

Keep these five tips in mind when working at a company that allows the flexibility of telecommuting. Get to know your fellow teammates, stay connected with management and communicate regularly on what you are doing to ensure that you stay accountable and visible from your office at home.

To help with the idea of productive telecommuting, why not check out our next article on the “Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), What it is and How it can Help Your Business.”

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Social Media in the Workplace, Beneficial or Productivity Killer?

Can social media be beneficial to your business?

A big controversy today exists on the matter of whether or not social media in the workplace is beneficial or a productivity killer. Pros and cons of each side make a consensus difficult to reach. Some firms view the accessing of social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook during work hours as an attack on productivity. Although employees may be blocked from sites on their work computers, any smart phone still offers easy access. Communicating with business contacts and peers is often considered a productive networking tool. So where do businesses draw the line?

How does social media traffic impact business efficiency? How much time are younger generation employees spending on Facebook? It is technologically feasible to block access to a website that is a productivity problem, but is it necessary? One approach is to view social media sites as a communication tool and determine which groups of people in a business need access to it. For those who need unrestricted access to potential clients or are tasked to improve operations, the resources offered through these sites are critical.

One extreme or the other does not seem to be the answer. For employees who are not executing their job and are incapable of limiting their time on social media sites, global blocking is an option to consider versus terminating these people who do not seem to be able to self-police their own impulses. However, global blocking is impractical in that this easy way out does not solve the underlying problem. Lack of trust has a huge impact on employee satisfaction in the workplace as well as recruiting and retention efforts.

Consider these following solutions when social media in the workplace starts to be an issue:

1) Time Restrictions – Restrict the time that these sites can be accessed to a certain window each day. For example, pick a two hour window around the lunch hour. The time restriction shows employees that the activity is not necessarily supported during business hours but the company realizes that employees need access.

2) Group Restrictions – Restrict the groups that are allowed access to these sites. Have different access permissions based on the different roles of the employees in the business. If a group has not been granted access and feels that it is needed, have them submit a proposal outlining the reasons why.

3) Identify Abusers – Have your employees sign a policy that outlines their code of conduct concerning online activities. Then use the proxy servers to isolate the top users of certain sites to see if they are abusing their privileges.

4) Review Websites – Review the different social media sites to determine their intended purpose. Obviously Facebook and LinkedIn are different sites and offer distinct advantages and disadvantages.

5) Clarify Expectations – Spell out what you require from your employees. Let them know your productivity milestones so they are able to reach them. Use policies to explain how certain sites are to be used in the workplace.

There is a huge benefit to using social media sites but it is important that balance is maintained. Employees need to understand the value of personal productivity and develop a strong work ethic. Generally removing temptation or micromanaging behavior does not solve the problems as inherently employees will find another way to goof off or access these sites. In certain cases, the implementation of selective blocking may be necessary but this is where the above solutions come into play, such as time and group restrictions. It is also important to keep in mind that websites constantly evolve based on the needs of the user and the environment of the Internet. A site that may seem unnecessary at the time might offer a new opportunity in the future.

Next in line for Social Media in the Workplace: “Workplace Policies on Social Media”

Managing Business tasks with MindNode for the iPad

Taking control of business taske with MindNode.

mindnodeIf you’re in business development, technology oversight or sales, MindNode (available for iPad and iPhone) is your essential tool for staying organized while attending trade shows or events. A visual mind mapping application, MindNode allows users to create a map of all the companies, people and products on their agenda, then strategize their day and constantly update the app to reflect new objectives as they occur. If you’re new to mind mapping, or you’ve seen other mind mapping apps with complicated user interfaces, have no fear. MindNode’s learning curve takes no time to get over, yet it’s packed with features that increase your productivity like it’s had a bit too much caffeine.

Getting started is as simple as entering objectives you’d like to accomplish as nodes in the application. Under each node, you can add subnodes that list the people or products you need to see to complete that objective. Then just color code the most important nodes to maximize your productivity. As you complete each goal, tap the node to re-color and mark it as completed. If you’ve found something new to add to your map during the day, that’s no problem for MindNode. Simply add nodes for each new product, company or person and the map will fluidly include all the new tasks you’d like to accomplish. You can even drag and drop nodes if associations change or you put something in the wrong place.

As a checklist, MindNode is a dream; but the app offers much more than that. If you need to take notes as you speak with prospects, potential partners or customers, you can easily add that information to their node on the mind map. To avoid speaking to anyone twice (or worse, missing someone), just change the node color of contacts to whom you’ve already spoken. It’s even possible to map these relationships by business or product groupings, meaning you’ll always associate contacts with the right company. Additionally, you can map your business development plans and associate people or products with each stage. The portability (and export ability for PDF and other formats) inherent in MindNode means you’ll always have those plans at hand when you need them. Plus, the no frills interface means you won’t easily be confused or waste time tracking down information on the go.

But, as you’ll see from the list below, those are just a few of MindNode’s offerings.

MindNode Pro

  • iPhone, iPad and Mac OS X support
  • Features full keyboard support
  • Supports improved printing dialog
  • Canvas automatically expands
  • Allows users to:
  • Create multiple new nodes and node wells
  • Create multiple mind maps all on one canvas
  • Customize node widths
  • Export maps to PNG, PDF, HTML, RTF, OPML, and FreeMind formats
  • Import FreeMind and OPML files
  • Import MindNode (touch) files
  • Drag and drop to reconnect nodes
  • Image nodes
  • Create visual file links
  • Create cross connections
  • Enable WiFi sharing with MindNode (touch)
  • Enter full screen mode
  • Fold and unfold nodes
  • Embed hyperlinks
  • Customize node creation shortcuts
  • Customize default node color, stroke, font and more
  • Change a node’s title alignment
  • Reorganize nodes
  • Fill any node
  • Copy mind maps to the clipboard as a TIFF or PDF

The simple user interface combined with so many useful features makes MindNode essential in terms of productivity. Plus, the portability means the app is both flexible and practical for attending trade shows and events. So if you’re new to the mind mapping concept, you’ll be an old pro in no time with MindNode. And if you’re an old pro, you just might pick up some new productivity tricks.

Using MindNode for productivity isn’t the only thing that can help your business. The Green Initiative and How it can Help Your Business.

Increasing Productivity & Effectiveness: How Parkinson’s Law can Help Your Company

Using Parkinson’s Law to increase productivity in your company.

parkinson's lawFor the worker bees of the world, productivity is king. They work long hours, hoping to show their boss how dedicated they are to their job with the hopes of promotion. Sadly, those who live by the words “work harder, not smarter” are most likely wasting most of those 40 hours a week, when they actually could be getting more work done and still have a good bit of personal time to spare.

The idea is not new. In 1955, noted British author Cyril Northcote Parkinson opened an essay in the Economist with the following words: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” The essay describes how the British bureaucracy had become bloated because officials favored the appearance that civil servants were working hard over the much more efficient alternative: working smarter, and shorter hours.

When workers in any context are given an ample amount of time to complete a task, Parkinson’s law posits that they will use all of that time to complete the task to look like they are busy. Not only is this a waste of resources, but it also actually creates stress on the worker as the task inevitably becomes more burdensome than necessary because they have drawn it out to fill a large gap of time. Parkinson’s law dispels the notion that just because an employee spends more time working on a task that it must result in a better quality end product.

It is not too difficult to incorporate these principles in your daily life and work routine so you can get more done in less time. It boils down to good time management, and changing the amount of time you think a certain task takes to complete. Start the day with a list of tasks, and for each one write down the amount time you think you need to complete them. Now cut that number in half.

This may cause you some apprehension at first, but give it a try. Most people overestimate the time it takes to complete a task because they are used to stretching the job out to fill an entire workday. Think of it as a game, and the objective is to beat the clock. This will make your work more fun and engaging as well. You may want to get your hands on a digital timer, as it is easier to time your tasks that way versus using a clock.

As you get used to this process, you may need to adjust your times if you find that getting them complete in the allotted time period is just impossible. This is likely if you are already fairly good at estimating the minimum amount of time you need to finish a job. Don’t cut the time down to the point where the quality of your work becomes rushed or shoddy. The idea is to experiment and find the true amount of time it takes to complete a task when you are purely focused on its completion.

The easiest tasks to squash are time-fillers such as checking email or maybe browsing the web for work-related articles. Cut down that 30 minute morning email routine to just five minutes. Then you have time left to get a jump-start on your next task, or perhaps find time to look at a few things that interest you. Everyone needs a little “me” time to get through the day.

As you become adept at reducing the amount of time it takes to get work done, you will find that you have extra time to do with what you want. You could take on more work, squeeze in some personal errands, watch a few videos on-line and still leave early on Friday.

Parkinson’s Law is only part of the battle to Increase Productivity!

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